Democrats Are Trying to Undo Important Internet Regulatory Reform
Despite a lack of mainstream media attention, the bureaucratic disarray in Washington, D.C has created meaningful reforms. That is particularly true at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an agency that moved in a deliberate and transparent manner to restore regulatory sanity to the internet. Now, Democrats in Congress are trying to undo that progress and reinstate government control over the internet.
Last year, President Trump’s pick to lead the FCC, Ajit Pai, advanced his proposal to roll back Title II, an economically destructive, public utility-style regulatory framework carelessly imposed on the internet by the FCC during the Obama Administration.
Applying those public utility regulations (Title II) to the internet was an unprecedented power grab by the Obama administration. In addition to upending two decades of bipartisan consensus for light-touch regulation of the internet sector, Title II significantly impacted internet infrastructure investment, stalled the development of new technological advances, and unnecessarily slowed a critical sector of the U.S. economy.
Of course, one can’t be too surprised by those consequences. When the most dynamic communications platform in history is regulated as if it were a Depression-era telephone monopoly, the innovative capabilities are bound to be diminished and investments derailed.
Thankfully, Chairman Pai focused on addressing the issue early in his tenure with the FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” proceeding.
The FCC launched a public comment period and received millions of comments from concerned citizens, policy experts, industry leaders and businesses. CFIF and TPA were proud to participate in that process by providing platforms for millions of like-minded Americans to share their views with the FCC. Thankfully, Chairman Pai ultimately decided to repeal the utility regulations imposed on the internet.
Chairman Pai circulated his ideas to the public and his fellow commissioners more than three weeks before the FCC voted on it on December 14. That level of transparency in Washington is refreshing. In comparison, President Obama’s FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, released his proposal to impose Title II on the internet the same day it was voted on in 2015.
But of course, the floodgates have once again opened with “Chicken Little” screams from radical, pro-regulatory activists who will do anything to keep Title II—their number one fundraising cash cow—on the books.
Their arguments have—after all these years—become routine and stale. As such, it’s easy to expect what mistruths will be yelled in attempts to confuse Americans and scare them into believing that the free and open internet is dead.
Now, Democrats in Congress are taking up the mantle of those pro-regulatory activists by hastily trying to invoke the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to undo the FCC’s reforms. And they are trying to pressure Republicans in the House and Senate to join them. If Democrats are successful, they would reinstate rigid government control over the internet and bring back the negative economic consequences that come with regulation.
These groups love to conflate Title II utility regulations with open internet principles known as “net neutrality.” But the reality is that widespread agreement already exists on the importance of preserving the open internet principles of no blocking, no throttling and no unfair discrimination of lawful online content. The real issue is how those principles are enforced. CFIF and TPA believe, as millions of others do, that the internet doesn’t need to be regulated as a public utility to ensure it remains free and open.
Many people have engaged for years in thoughtful dialogue and advocacy to return the internet to the free market principles that recognize today’s competitive landscape and encourage, rather than impede, investment and growth. We cannot allow a return to the harmful Obama-era policies we know do not work.
The American people and their elected representatives in Congress shouldn’t be fooled by the predictable, sensationalized talking points from pro-regulatory activists and Democrats in Congress. Republicans should oppose the CRA, and Congress must reject it if it ever comes up for a vote. If Congress is going to legislate, they should enact open internet principles into law to settle the issue forever and safeguard the internet from future government intervention.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller